Pameacha Pond neighbors oppose proposed park in Middletown wildlife ‘sanctuary’

MIDDLETOWN – Residents of the Pameacha Pond area, who oppose a proposal to remove the dam and turn the water and land into a park off Highway 17, have voiced myriad objections to the idea to the Wetlands and Inland Waterways Agency.

The long, thin 19-acre pond is used for fishing, and those who live on the pond say it’s a great place for nature viewing. In its heyday, Pameacha, which once powered nearby now-defunct mills, was also an ice rink in winter.

The area, which has shrunk in size over the years, is located on Route 17/South Main Street across from Ace Hardware.

The circa 1814 Wilcox, Crittenden & Co. Building, now the Wilcox Apartments, at 234 Main Street was a former woolen mill and marine hardware factory, according to city records. Pameacha Creek was its main source of water power.

The Pameacha Manufacturing plant occupied the site from the 1650s.

Earlier this summer, the public works department created a concept drawing of a park that could replace the pond, however, said manager Chris Holden, the city is open to other ideas for the property.

The plan incorporates wetland plants from nature trails. “We try to keep it as natural as possible,” Holden said.

Several residents spoke at the public forum. City environmental planner James Sipperly said it was not yet clear whether the agency would have jurisdiction over the wetlands part of the matter.

Neighborhood concerns

“It’s a gem; it’s a beautiful place,” owner Taylor Brown told the commission. “It provides a certain sense of peace that you don’t usually find in a busy city.”

“It’s been a pond for 10,000 years,” said Charles Wiltse. “[A park is] not what his natural condition is,” he told agency members. “He is in charge of [wildlife]. It is worth saving.

Over the years, pond advocates say, the surrounding area has become a wildlife sanctuary.

There are many species of birds and turtles, great blue herons, white egrets and even eagles, according to Mary Ellen Sutton, who opened the Cheemah on South Main Yoga Studio two years ago.

Her family has lived nearby for a century and owns property at 375-77 S. Main St. When guests look out the back of the studio, they admire the beauty of the water, Sutton said, something she had intend to join. attraction.

She created a video, “Discover Pameacha Pond,” on Vimeo that describes the area through the seasons. It also shows the remains of an icehouse that once stood there.

Neighbors rallied around the issue from June.

Sutton and his brother Greg Wilson, joined by neighbor Tyler Eckstrom, are spearheading a campaign to raise awareness of the issue to a wider audience, including handing out a bright yellow “Save Pameacha Pond; Repair dam lawn panels.

When Sutton and others ask nearby businesses if they can place a sign on their property, she says, they respond, “You better. People really react to that. People really care.

Neighbors are also looking State Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and city records on the dam, which is collapsing in places, Sipperly acknowledged, as well as research on the pond’s history.

Opponents of the concept are pushing for the dam to be repaired.

The waterways agency will hold an information meeting about the pond later this year, Sipperly said at the meeting.

Public comments will be considered, the director said. “It won’t just be a big mudflat. There are improvements we can make there,” like a nature trail that can cross it.

Traditional elements of the park – like a playground or a baseball stadium – will not be part of the plans if they were to go ahead. The pond could be reduced to a stream running through the park with a pond near the yoga studio, Holden added.

“It will still be very wild. Anyone could enjoy it,” the director said.

Gathering of objectors

Meanwhile, opponents of the project have diverted their efforts from Facebook Group Help Save Pameacha Pondwhich has more than 370 members, to knock on doors and have face-to-face conversations, Eckstrom said, to get people interested.

They now use it as an information site.

“The real change is going to happen on the streets by getting the word out to people individually,” Eckstrom explained. The signs are part of an effort to let the community know that “this project is wrong,” he said.

“Financially, completely drying up the natural pond and redeveloping the wetlands into grasslands, building a park, and then maintaining it for years to come” is unlikely to benefit taxpayers, he said. he adds. It would cost more than fixing the dam and cleaning up the property, Eckstrom said.

He brings up another point: “The pond has a lot of history, much of it dating back to the early days of Middletown… when the first European settlers arrived.”

In fact, “Pameacha” is a Native American term used by the Algonquins.

Wilson is part owner of 377 S. Main St., where his sister lives. About two years ago, the family was under the impression that the project involved lowering the dam for sewer work, after which the area would be cleared.

They understood the dam would not be removed, Wilson said.

He has fond memories of the pond, including his grandmother’s Polish meals in winter. “I used to go out there all the time and shovel an area for ice skating right behind his house,” he said.

After consulting Google Earth, Wilson found that the pond was much larger, even in recent years. Much of the sediment drained from the square across the street, as well as from the condominiums near the McDonald’s restaurant, he said.

As a child, he remembers the swamp rising almost to Farm Hill Road to the east.

Sutton’s front yard faces Pameacha, where it is much quieter than the back. “I couldn’t even talk to you because of the volume of cars and the noise,” she explained, which she calls “pretty awful.”

The difference is “striking”, she added. “You walk around, and there’s all this nature, birds and trees,” she said of the “little sanctuary.” There is also a bush where monarch butterflies drink nectar.

Should the project move forward, Holden said, “we’ll go into it with an open mind to understand everyone’s concerns, and we’ll move forward on what’s best for the city.” Anything is possible at this point. »

Any work would start in at least a year from now, as the permitting process alone is “quite complex”, the director said.

For information, visit Help save Pameacha Pond on Facebook.

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